There are countless challenges in preserving obsolete media from breadth of formats to lack of documentation at the time of creation. With the history of recorded sound now spanning over one hundred years wide range of technologies utilized in this span, challenges abound for any individual working to capture the range of media in need of preservation. To accomplish this feat constant engagement is required to further understand the media, the way media is degrading, and best practices for preserving historic recordings that range from cylinders to digital multi-track recording sessions.
The Allen Ginsberg papers in the Department of Special Collections is truly the collection that keeps on giving. We here at the media lab have digitized a huge portion of the media (current count: 2000+ items), yet our interest in it remains high because of the sheer amount of gems hidden within. Even if we didn't enjoy Ginsberg, the vast amount of acquaintances he recorded from the 1950s until the 1990s would provide endless entertainment.
How do you know a publication date? For most books, simply look for the copyright or edition information at the beginning. For mass produced modern CDs, check the edge of the disc surface for the “p date”, or maybe it will be in the booklet inserted into the container. But what about piano rolls for reproducing and player pianos? Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound’s Player Piano Project faces this question. The publication date certainly isn’t stamped on the label, yet we need it.
Earlier this year, I reported on recent work the Archive of Recorded Sound (ARS) had undertaken to preserve video footage of Leon Theremin's visit to Stanford in 1991. In addition to participating in a symposium during his visit, hosted by the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), Theremin was also the guest of honor at a concert held in Frost Amphitheater on September 27, 1991 during the Stanford Centennial Finale Weekend. The video footage preserved by the ARS earlier in the year unfortunately only included part of this notable concert. It was found to be missing some key performances, including an arrangement of Rachmaninov's Vocalise, featuring Theremin's daughter Natasha Theremin playing the vocal parts on her father's instrument, accompanied by Max Mathews conducting the orchestral parts with his radio batons. This footage was presumed lost...until now.
Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound just received its latest shipment of important material for the processing of the Player Piano Project: new boxes. To provide the best security and archival conditions (like temperature control!) for our piano rolls, they will be stored at SAL3, a high-density preservation facility in Livermore, California. Patrons interested in researching particular rolls will still have access, simply contact the Archive of Recorded Sound and we will request the rolls be shipped here for you to use.
The Archive of Recorded Sound (ARS) has recently begun cataloging Irish folk music recordings donated by the family of Thomas Quilter. The collection features items representing a significant span of Irish and Irish-American music from the 1910s to the 1980s and a progression in performance practices leading up to and including the revival of Irish traditional folk music.
The Archive of Recorded Sound (ARS) recently deposited two significant collections into the Stanford Digital Repository (SDR), the Terry Smythe AMICA Collection and the Stanford Soundtrack Collection.
In November 2014, I posted a blog detailing a very small roll (4.5" wide) that staff at the Archive of Recorded Sound had uncovered among the reproducing piano rolls in the Denis Condon Collection of Reproducing Pianos and Rolls. It was discovered that the roll was designed to be used with a toy, a type of player saxophone called the Playasax, produced by Q.R.S. I am very pleased to announce that the Archive, just yesterday, acquired an actual Playasax along with four additional rolls, thanks to a generous donation by Kristine Sturgill. This donation will make up the Otto M. Slater Playasax Collection, named in honor of Mrs Sturgill's father, who passed away earlier this year.